The penultimate lecture in the Fine Minds series will be broadcast on Sunday August 27, just after the 6 pm news. Professor of Linguistics Rajend Mesthrie gives us a social history of Indian languages in South Africa. It’s a history we know very little about, and yet it has huge potential for illuminating the history of South Africans of Indian ancestry. Mesthrie begins by referring to the existence of Indians in the Cape as a significant part of the slave community long before the arrival of the community today considered “Indian”. Some words in Afrikaans offer evidence for this link. The Indians who arrived in nineteenth-century Natal (now KZN) as indentured labourers and the languages they spoke – Bhojpuri-Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Gujarati and Kokni – provide the main focus of the lecture. Mesthrie discusses the geographical origins of these languages as well as aspects of their development on South African soil.
Professor Mesthrie has held an NRF A-rating as a researcher in the field of Linguistics since 2008. He is a past head of the Linguistics Section at the University of Cape Town, a past President of the Linguistics Society of Southern Africa, and past co-editor of English Today.